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Workshop Summaries

The Rethinking the Responsibilities of the Social Sciences Researcher in Supporting the Advancement of Indigenous Data Sovereignty (IDSOV) workshop took place virtually on Friday, April 23, 2021. The workshop began with opening remarks by co-organizers Naomi Adelson and Chris Stephens and an opening ceremony led by Guest Knowledge Keeper Amy Desjarlais. This was followed by keynote presentations by Robyn Rowe and Camille Callison and the first of two breakout discussion sessions. Dr. Jane Anderson and Dr. Maui Hudson then delivered a third keynote presentation which was followed by the second breakout discussion session and a full group discussion on ways forward. The workshop ended with closing remarks by Amy Desjarlais. 


Robyn Rowe’s presentation focused on the fundamentals of Indigenous data sovereignty and the key organizations and principles that have emerged to guide this work, including the Global Indigenous Data Alliance (GIDA) and the CARE Principles for Indigenous Data Governance. Rowe emphasized the importance of ensuring Free, Prior, and Informed Consent (FPIC) in research with Indigenous communities and the need for non-Indigenous researchers to enable Indigenous peoples to lead all research involving them. 


Camille Callison discussed the importance of building relationships with Indigenous communities and incorporating Indigenous protocols and ways of knowing into research designs and methodologies. Callison emphasized that Indigenous knowledge is dynamic and that non-Indigenous researchers must build good relationships with the knowledge holders in the communities with whom they seek to work. 


Dr. Jane Anderson and Dr. Maui Hudson’s presentation focused on the Traditional Knowledge (TK) and Biocultural (BC) Labels and Notices Initiative as a way to operationalize Indigenous data sovereignty. Anderson and Hudson explained how TK and BC Labels and Notices were developed as a response to gaps in intellectual property law. They described how TK and BC Labels and Notices function and emphasized that the labels and notices provide researchers and cultural heritage institutions with a way to acknowledge Indigenous protocols in the digital realm. 


The breakout room sessions allowed participants to engage with the presentations through the lens of a key question that was posed at the beginning of each session. The key questions were:


  • Breakout session one: based on your experience with, or your plans for, social sciences research, what would you describe as the most important meaningful change needed to create, as Camille says, the “groundwork for meaningful change moving forward”? What would you consider to be barriers to that change?

  • Breakout session two: considering the CARE Principles and the creation of practices such as TK Labels, how can social scientists contribute to “meaningful change”? What, in other words, are the ways forward?


The workshop wrapped up with a full group discussion on ways forward and closing remarks by the co-organizers and Guest Knowledge Keeper Amy Desjarlais. 


Many thanks to Thelma Cheechoo for granting the workshop organizers permission to play a recording of one of her live performances as a musical interlude during the workshop. 

Workshop 2022 emerged from the 2021 Workshop participant feedback and our continued efforts to engage in constructive conversations with social sciences researchers and stakeholders with regard to the collection, management, and storage of social sciences research data in Indigenous community-based research. What, more specifically, we wanted to ask, are the roles and responsibilities of social sciences researchers when working with Indigenous peoples and/or in Indigenous communities. Moving from a more theoretical approach in 2021 to application, the 2022 workshop highlighted current Indigenous data sovereignty (IDSov) initiatives and challenges. In 2022, we specifically sought out speakers who were actively engaged in Indigenous data management processes. With their respective team’s deep engagement in the issues of IDSov, Professor Celia Haig-Brown’s “Listen to the Land” team and members of Aanischaaukamikw, the Cree Cultural Institute, agreed to be the speakers for the 2022 workshop.


The workshop opened with guest knowledge keeper Amy Desjarlais. Following Amy’s opening, the “Listen to the Land” group’s discussed each member’s role in the collection, management, and circulation/access to the research materials collected for the film. Celia Haig-Brown was the principal researcher/filmmaker, Loretta Robinson is a Naskapi Cree educator who is deeply committed to ensuring that the recordings can be accessed in perpetuity by the Naskapi people, Anna St Onge is the team’s archivist, and Heather Bergen is a graduate student research assistant to the project. Members of Aanischaaukamikw Cree Cultural Institute, based in Oujé-Bougoumou, followed with a discussion of the current archiving practices at the Institute and some of their challenges. Speakers included Annie Bosum, Chanelle Fabbri, Rob Imrie, and Kory Saganash.


Questions for breakout discussions:

  1. What is the relationship between community-based research and Indigenous data sovereignty - what does that relationship look like/mean to you?

  2. If you were to write a proposal to work with a community, what would you include to support IDSov and what do you envision as your commitment to IDSov after the data is collected? (What are you doing as/for communities, bringing forward in terms of sustaining the relationships (pre- and post- research) between researcher, the community, the research data.)


The final full group discussion focused on ways to advance the ideas brought forward during the workshop to formulate practices that can be put in place to ensure substantive advancement in Indigneous Data Sovereignty. Suggestions included:

  1.  Greater emphasis on relationship building and maintenance after the research is done in order to ensure a strong and productive connection with the community 

  2. Support in navigating how to manage Indigenous Data Sovereignty in smaller communities regarding storage, access, future use 

  3. The creation of an information network addressing issues in Indigenous Data Sovereignty

  4. Establishing partnerships with those in the tech field to develop IT systems to support Indigenous Data Sovereignty through digitization and additional categorization and labeling systems (metadata, etc)

  5. Informing/working with researchers outside the social sciences will bring in different perspectives and new challenges to Indigenous Data Sovereignty; specifically in the STEM disciplines as they will benefit from more education and access to information on Indgienous Data Sovereignty

  6. Consider limiting the use of the term “data”, and replace with words such as “stories” that shift our thinking about the research from material collected to sharing of knowledge and the substantive considerations that emerge.


Closing the group discussion and the workshop Amy Desjarlais articulated the importance of relationship building and sustaining those connections. She reiterated the importance of acknowledging knowledge transmission in Indigneous communities, and the importance of the work for advancing Indigneous Data Sovereignty, digitization of the data, of the stories and the stewardship of this knowledge so that it is preserved. While noting how these dialogues and engagement in Indigneous Data Sovereignty is necessary for truth and reconciliation, decolonizing academia and for growth (Desjarlais, 2022).

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